The Jaguar I-Pace will now have a weird pedestrian warning noise whenever it’s traveling slower than 12 mph.
Jaguar’s electric car, the I-Pace, is just chock-full of bizarre sounds. This is all because electric cars are eerily silent right up until they start moving at high speeds, at which point tire noise, wind, and a high-pitched electric hum come into play.
Last we reported on the I-Pace’s sound signature was in June when the British carmaker revealed the noise that the driver experiences while puttering around town. That bizarre, slightly futuristic, slightly engine-like sound gets pumped in through the car’s sound system to remind the driver that they’re accelerating--as if the fact that they’re suddenly going faster wasn’t enough.
But battery-powered cars are not just silent on the inside; they’re also silent on the outside. That can be a big problem for the visually impaired who rely on sound to keep them safe in urban settings.
In the European Union, new legislation is set to take effect in 2019 requiring all electric vehicles to make some sort of alert sound when traveling under 20 kph (or roughly 12 mph). Jaguar is getting a head start on the legislation by implementing a new sound warning system in the I-Pace that sound similar to the sound heard by the driver. Only even more bizarre than that.
The first sound that Jaguar employed sounded too much like a weird UFO flying overhead, which caused too many people to start looking up rather than at the road. They eventually refined the idea into the sound that you hear throughout their introductory video, which we’ll helpfully place below:
That weird humming sound is emitted from a speaker just behind the grille. It emits that noise whenever the car is traveling under 12 mph, and changes in pitch and volume as the car accelerates. For backing up, the tone changes to something more akin to a van’s backup beep.
This is great news for the visually impaired and even for people too buried in their cellphones to bother looking at the road, but it does sort of preview the weird soundscape we’ll have to deal with in a few short years. We thought the sci-fi world of the Jetson’s would never come, but as it turns out we’re just getting the cartoon’s sounds first.